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Pointers On Speaking With A Workers’ Compensation Physician

  • By: Lisa J. Pezzano
  • Published: June 20, 2024

Pointers on Speaking with a Workers’ Compensation Physician

In many states, workers’ compensation laws allow the insurance carrier to select the medical providers who will treat injured workers. This situation can put injured workers at a disadvantage when communicating with their assigned physicians. Since injured workers cannot easily switch doctors, the incentive for workers’ compensation physicians to satisfy their patients may be diminished. It’s crucial for injured workers to be aware of this imbalance when interacting with these physicians.

Injured workers should keep the following pointers in mind when talking with workers’ compensation physicians:

Doctors Are Human Too!

Physicians, like all people, have their own prejudices and personality flaws. It is important to interact with them in a pleasant and respectful manner. A doctor who likes you as a person is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to decisions about further treatment or taking time off work.

Speak Directly And Succinctly

Doctor visits are often brief, averaging 10–20 minutes, with only a portion of that time dedicated to conversation. Make the most of your time by being friendly but concise. Focus on the injury from your work accident and avoid discussing unrelated medical issues. Before your visit, practice what you plan to say, including:

  • A description of your pain (e.g., sharp, dull, aching, stabbing).
  • The specific location of the pain and whether it radiates (e.g., neck pain that travels down the arm).
  • Other symptoms besides pain (e.g., tingling, numbness, tightness).
  • Whether your symptoms are improving or worsening.
  • The effectiveness of your current treatment plan.
  • If you are out of work, explain your job duties and why you need more time off to recover.
  • If you have returned to work, detail which job duties are difficult due to your injury.
  • Differences between current symptoms and any prior injuries.

Do Not Exaggerate: They Know When You Are Lying!

Workers’ compensation physicians are trained to detect signs of “malingering,” where patients exaggerate symptoms for a monetary award. Exaggerating pain or symptoms can harm your credibility. Always be honest about your condition to ensure an accurate treatment plan. For example, if physical therapy helps but symptoms return between visits, share this information. Honest communication helps in getting the best medical treatment and can support your case in litigation.

Do Not Try To Hide Prior Injuries

The “eggshell skull” rule in law states that a defendant must take the injured party as they find them, even if they are more susceptible to injury. Therefore, you are entitled to treatment and benefits if a work accident exacerbates pre-existing conditions. Inform your workers’ compensation physician about any serious prior injuries to avoid misunderstandings. You do not need to mention every minor ache and pain, just those that required medical intervention.

Share Your Job Duties With The Physician

Explain your job duties before the accident during your initial visit. Sedentary workers are often cleared to return to work sooner than manual laborers. Detail specific tasks that are difficult due to your injuries (e.g., standing for long periods, lifting heavy items). If the physician declares you unable to work, you may be eligible for temporary disability benefits. Avoid the stereotype of not wanting to work by emphasizing your desire to receive necessary medical treatment to return to work and stay there. If you return to work prematurely, it can hinder your recovery.

Obtain Office Notes After Each Visit

After each appointment, obtain and read the office notes. If any symptoms are incorrectly recorded, address this at your next visit and ask for corrections. Many physicians offer electronic patient portals where you can access your records. Register for this portal as soon as possible. Some states limit access to medical records for workers’ compensation patients, a policy that needs legislative change.

Make The Workers’ Compensation Physician Your Advocate

Workers’ compensation physicians hold significant power over your medical treatment and benefits. Judges of Compensation often defer to the opinions of these physicians. If your physician finds your complaints credible, they are more likely to advocate for you. Cultivate a positive relationship with your workers’ compensation physician to increase your chances of receiving the treatment and benefits you deserve.

Lisa J. Pezzano

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